If ever there were a human equivalent to liver and onions—hated or loved, but no in-between—it was the late Ewing Hunter Harrison III, a chief executive of four major North American railroads, personally synonymous with the term “Precision Scheduled Railroading,” and whose mention invokes often disquieting debate on theories of management and how best to deliver shareholder value in the short- and long-term.
Author: Frank N. Wilner
Watching Washington, July 2018: When everybody owns something, nobody accepts accountability or responsibility. Such is the circumstance of Amtrak, a near-50-year-old orphan wandering in a public policy wilderness, dependent on grudgingly provided public assistance often provided with conditions and objectives so conflicted as to suggest a Marx Brothers comedy.
Martin J. (Marty) Oberman, 73, an attorney and perennial fixture in Chicago and Illinois Democratic politics, is President Trump’s choice to fill a vacant Democratic seat on the five-member Surface Transportation Board (STB). He must be confirmed by the Senate.
For railroaders this summer, a cerebral repast beckons in the form of two new books illuminating the careers of legendary CEOs.
Amidst extravagant accusations of inhospitable dispatching by host freight railroads of its long-distance passenger trains, taxpayer subsidized Amtrak is aggressively manipulating its privileged position in contravention of a congressional intent to expand private-sector operation of passenger trains. Amtrak’s strong-arm tactics also serve to squeeze monopoly rents from state and regional transit authorities, whose commuter trains share Amtrak-owned facilities.
Watching Washington, May 2018: Railroads, as do all for-profit undertakings, earn their crust by selling at a price-multiple above production costs. Otherwise, they become revenue inadequate, meaning they lose investors, cease renewing assets, hollow out service and fail.
Were there any doubt that the Surface Transportation Board (STB) has been on siesta since the departure of former Chairman Dan Elliott in September, a House Rail Subcommittee oversight hearing April 17 confirmed the languor.
Senior Senate legislative aide Patrick J. Fuchs and commuter railroad attorney Michelle A. Schultz, both Republicans, appeared April 11 before the Senate Commerce Committee as a first crucial step toward Senate confirmation to become members of the Surface Transportation Board (STB), which administers remnants of what until 1980 was almost a century of pervasive railroad economic regulation.
Debates rage over the wisdom of steeper tariffs on U.S. imports and/or withdrawing from global trade pacts in hopes of protecting domestic industry and jobs. History teaches such actions pose economic and national security risks.
Clint Miller studied, recited and practiced railroad labor law with such determination, devotion and precision that his management adversaries often were converted to fans. Had cancer instead picked its fight with him in a courtroom, few would have expected his death last week at age 70.